Town Talk Features

Giving Back: Arch Grants

Whether it’s software, fashion or food and drink, odds are you’ve encountered a product that was made possible by Arch Grants. Since 2012, the nonprofit’s startup competition has funded innovative new companies so they can bring economic growth and development to St. Louis. T&S spoke with the organization’s new executive director, Gabe Angieri, to learn more about its impact on the region over the last decade and what it has planned for the future.

What attracted you to Arch Grants?
I’m originally from the Twin Cities area, but my mom is from St. Louis, so it’s where I decided to start building my life. I was working at the Regional Business Council in Clayton when I became aware of Arch Grants through the businesses it has brought to the region. It’s an intriguing model to use a nonprofit to help fund for-profit companies, and I was drawn in by the inherent optimism that comes with this work. The greatest impact we can have on the community is ensuring long-term economic growth. Having met so many entrepreneurs, seen their passion and learned about the innovations they are developing, I know St. Louis’ best days are ahead of us.

Why is economic development an important issue for the St. Louis area?
At the end of the 19th century, this was the fourth largest city in the country. It was one of the top places to live and work in the U.S. We’re still seeing the benefit of that economic vibrancy through cultural institutions like the Missouri Botanical Garden, the art and history museums and others that came out of the 1904 World’s Fair. However, like so many other cities in the Rust Belt, St. Louis experienced massive economic decline over four or five decades. While traditional support for the local economy is important, it’s equally critical to invest in new development. Arch Grants brings in very early stage companies to grow here in the long term. While there is a substantial chance of failure for these businesses, we take that risk, and over the past 10 years, we’ve seen the innovation sector that has sprouted around these startups gain a lot of traction.

How does Arch Grants’ annual startup competition address the issue?
The competition puts a global spotlight on St. Louis as a place where entrepreneurs can access the resources necessary to grow their companies. Winners receive $75,000, and companies from outside of St. Louis also are awarded an additional relocation grant. We try to attract applicants from all over the world in every sector imaginable. We’ve had entries from South America, Spain, China and South Korea, but it’s still very St. Louis-focused. Applicants are judged by a panel of 200 local volunteers. We couldn’t do what we do without the support of the community. Final pitch day for the 2022 competition will be in August at Saint Louis University. At least 60 companies will pitch to the panel of judges. Whether it’s through donations to fund grants or being part of the evaluation process, it really is a city-wide effort.

What sort of impact have the competition winners had on local business?
If you look around St. Louis, you can see that the companies we’ve helped fund are making a footprint in the region. In 2013, KNOWiNK was a winner, and it’s one of the fastest growing private companies in St. Louis. Balto started in 2018 with a five-person team, and today, it employs more than 160. Clever Real Estate, another winner from 2018, is working in University City, and it’s not hard to see its impact. Big Heart Tea Co. has been able to set up retail and distribution. Less Annoying CRM was ranked No. 1 for CRM by U.S. News & World Report. There also are some big, potentially world-changing innovations coming out of St. Louis. Geneoscopy has raised more than $100 million to develop a unique colorectal cancer screening tool. Those are just a few examples of the more than 200 companies we have funded in the last 10 years.

What are you looking forward to achieving as executive director?
This is a unique time for our company. Since 2012, Arch Grants has helped create more than 2,600 jobs and attracted more than $620 million in capital. I’m excited to take that impact even further. We support these companies beyond investment and help them sink deeper roots into the St. Louis community. We had 30 of our entrepreneurs participate in the Bank of America Great St. Louis Clean-Up, and we’re partnering with institutions like the contemporary art museum for events that provide meaningful social interaction and introduce people to our region’s cultural assets. I also want to focus on helping companies led by traditionally underrepresented entrepreneurs. Nationally, only 2% of funding goes to companies that are led by individuals who are not white males. At Arch Grants, 68% of our grants have gone to companies with veteran, female or BIPOC leadership. It’s an honor to take the helm and advance the mission.

For more information, visit archgrants.org.

Pictured at top: Gabe Angieri
Photo courtesy of Arch Grants

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